DraftKings, the sports provider that has been sponsoring the World Series of Poker (WSOP) for a while now, has withdrawn its sponsorship. Any advertisements, including DraftKings logos, that had been put up for this year’s WSOP or earlier tournaments have been removed since DraftKings’ decision to cut its sponsorship. According to the owner of WSOP, Caesars Entertainment, DraftKings actually wanted those advertisements removed.
Reason DraftKings Left
The withdrawal of the DraftKings sponsorship does not, in any way, mean that the poker sports series is no longer worth sponsoring. It also has nothing to do with the management of the two organizations. Besides, there are many poker enthusiasts who are also excited about the fantasy sports offered by DraftKings. The truth is that DraftKings would have loved to continue with its sponsorship this year, and probably many years to come were it not for the state laws in Nevada.
While sponsoring poker, DraftKings has been taking the opportunity to promote its fantasy sports during the poker series. Among the sports DraftKings promotes are Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) associated with American sports like the NBA, NFL and PGA; the Premier League; UEFA Champions League; NASCAR among others. And all along, the Nevada state laws put these fantasy sports within a sports category that requires licensing.
This time, however, the Nevada Gaming Control Board has stated categorically that any play that touches on DFS is gambling and must be licensed as such. Apparently, the controversy in the poker arena is not just about how to handle online poker or online gambling as a whole. Categorization of the DFS is a case in point.
The Impact of DraftKings’ Departure
DraftKings does not harbor any ill feelings against the management of WSOP but it surely has shown disgust towards the step taken by the Nevada authorities. For starters, the operators of DFS have ceased to accept any Nevada players forthwith. Ordinarily, players of poker, whether online poker or casino based poker, and those of DFS have nothing against each other. Hence, this move to bar Nevada players from DFS is a case of innocent players becoming collateral damage between the fight between DraftKings and the Nevada authorities.
This year’s November Nine has also been adversely affected by DraftKings’ withdrawal of its sponsorship. November Nine is the main event’s final table in the WSOP; the culmination of the whole poker Series. That means the poker fraternity is set to have their eyes on Las Vegas where the WSOP main event takes place in a couple of days.
For those new to the WSOP, November Nine constitutes the nine finalists who are still standing after thousands have been eliminated from the world poker series. To understand what a feat it is for the finalists, the number of participants at the start of this year’s WSOP was 6,420 and only nine of those qualified to play in the final leg, from November 8th to 10th. Sadly, DraftKings’ withdrawal of sponsorship extends to a finalist the sports site had sponsored for the poker tournament, Max Steinberg.
Prospects of DraftKings’ resumption of sponsorship
It is not certain as per now if DraftKings will resume sponsoring the WSOP next year, but it would not be surprising if it did because the reason for DraftKings’ withdrawal now has nothing to do with its relationship with WSOP or its officials. Poker players and DFS players have similar interests and their two sports have no rivalry. Possibly if the Nevada state laws were modified to become friendlier to DFS hosts, DraftKings might return to the WSOP in 2016. In any case, it is of great benefit for DraftKings to market its fantasy sports directly to the poker fraternity.